S1E1 Chidimma Transcript

Read the article about Chidimma.

Shane T. Watson: Welcome to project teacher's lounge, where we talk to educators about their time working during the COVID-19 pandemic. My name is Shane T. Watson, and I'll be your host. To the K through 12 educators out there. I want to say, thank you. Thank you for your service. As a teacher, y'all do a lot during a regular school year.

And to be doing it during a pandemic, just, wow. Y'all have the utmost appreciation, admiration and respect from me. You are a true superhero for putting in the extra work to help students become the leaders they will be in the future or whatever they decide to become. Thank you.

[00:00:34]

Chidimma Emelue: Oh. Thank you. That was really sweet. One quick correction though, not leaders of the future leaders of now because kids are the present.


Shane T. Watson: Welcome Chidimma. Chidimma is an eighth grade history teacher in Memphis, Tennessee. We went to Rhodes together. She's probably the first, second or third person I met at Rhodes, but the longest lasting most influential relationship I have from Rhodes college. When you say, or when you hear the phrase, "was you with me shooting in the gym?” Chidimma was literally with me shooting in the gym on the basketball court and in Econ 100, my freshman year when we both struggled to pass that class. But somehow we both managed to pass with at least a B I think,

Chidimma Emelue: I don't know how that happened because I think when we met had a F and I was like, I don't care about this.


So Chidimma, how have you been? I'm going to speak positively and say enlightened. That doesn't mean things have not been a struggle, but I do feel more enlightened at least about my education philosophy and just who I am as an educator.


[00:01:48]

What got you into being an educator? I've always been the person to like tutor and help other people, whether it's my peers or whether it's younger people or Nigerian younger Nigerians in my community here in Memphis.

If I'm doing any community service, there's probably kids involved in some way, whether it's a community center. So for me being both like a babysitter and doing all of that, I've always loved children. And at first I thought that would mean I would make a great pediatrician, but med school. And being a doctor just wasn't it for me. Disappointment to my Nigerian parents, but greatness, because then I said, okay what if I can work for the United Nations and help children on an international scale. And helping students and children, and being able to be there for women and children, whether it's working in NGOs or anything like that.

[00:02:42]

That also didn't work out because I tend to be very drawn to security issues. So when I left Columbia and left the international security policy program there and realized that I genuinely did want to help women and children on the ground and go into communities. I had to think about how, what I could do with that.

So I reached out and I applied to different places. I applied to maybe helping with St. Jude research hospital here in Memphis and saying, okay, maybe I can help with the kids who, are going through this terrible diagnosis of cancer and cancer research and trying to do that. And then I realized, I was like, you know what?

[00:03:23]

I really want to give teaching a chance, but I'm scared because I know nothing about teaching. Like I'm not one to do something. I don't know. I like to be an expert, so it's I'm not going to just go in a classroom when I've never taught before, but I actually had a conversation with Russ Wigginton at Rhodes.

I went to his office one day, happened to run into Dorothy Cox, who was one of my mentors there. And then had a conversation with Russ and essentially both of them in both conversations said, you are actually more skilled at this than you think. And you have all these experiences that can culminate in you being a great educator.

[00:04:00]

And like the one thing you have that most educators don't have is that drive to change the world and help kids. And so I was like, Oh, okay. This is, this feels like when I was at Rhodes, And they try to make me take Chinese. And I was like, I don't nothing about this, but I'm going to try. So I applied and I was fortunate enough to get employment at a charter school here where the founders actually erodes alum as well.

And so I did an interview. I had to make up a lesson from scratch and I did it. They loved what I did with that one lesson. They were like, obviously being a history major. You're really like. Intellectually equipped for this. You just need a few more moves to actually be in adequate, um, educator.

So I said, okay, if I'm going to do this for me to feel like, okay with it, I also need to make a commitment to become a literal master at teaching. So within a week of getting the job I applied I actually missed the deadline to apply, but I appealed and I was like, listen, I'm about to start this job as a teacher.

And I will absolutely get a master's. Master of arts in teaching and y'all are the only school that I can do this with and also work full time. So you gotta make it work. So I actually started grad school a week before I actually started teaching kids a week into orientation as a teacher, and I've been teaching for five years and also received my master's in 2018.

[00:05:30]


It's been five years already?

It's been five years. I know. That's a milestone where you decide, am I going to stay in the classroom or am I going to go marry a billionaire?


There you go. Let's talk about your teaching. What happened in March when the pandemic first hit? A week before spring break, they started talking about, okay, this is getting serious. We're probably going to have to shut down schools. So that Thursday, I was on my way to work. I was trying to get there early. Cause I like had assessments and tests that students need to take. And I got a flat tire on the way to work in the middle of nowhere. So I'm sitting there Oh my God, flat tire.

[00:06:05]

And as I'm like checking my messages and waiting for the people to come told me, I'm getting a bunch of messages on group meet, which is how we communicate. And it's okay, don't freak out. Don't let kids know, but we're going to have to close school today. And I was like, huh. There's only one day left before it break well, what is going on?

And they're like, Oh Shelby County has decided to. Shut down schools because of the pandemic. Like it's a major thing. It's literally a lockdown almost nationwide. So that's what we're going to have to do. So the buses are not going to be running tomorrow. So kids are going home today as a teacher. We don't know if kids are going to be going home for just a week or a longer time than that.

So usually for breaks, we give kids work to do so each subject we'll give them like maybe a worksheet of two pages front and back. So four pages to keep them, their brains active during that time. And they're like, that's not gonna work. You need more because for sure, we're going to be out for two weeks for spring break rather than one week.

[00:07:03]

And I was like two weeks. That's a long time. I get to work because I've missed everything. Literally, my co-teacher's was she's a first-year teacher. She was, I was trained in her and so she didn't know what to do. So I ran to the copy machine. I literally pulled out of thin air, like a week, two weeks, a month worth of stuff and was like, this is what you have to do, kids.

And then the rest of this can just be extra credit. I don't know what made me do a month, but I'm glad that I did because. As of that day, that Thursday, before that spring break students didn't come back to class again and still haven't. And so for the rest of the semester, I think we had two weeks and then we extended for an additional three weeks.

And I think spring break ended up being like an entire month that they were in on zoom, nothing, because we then had a two to three week turnaround to try to figure out how to do online learning. And because of that, I teach social studies or history. And so to the powers that be, and also the education system in general, it's one of the elective courses in life.

[00:08:07]

I know. Crazy to think that history is an elective, but it's not your core class classes of like math and ELA. So they, our school decided which there were feelings about that to just have two classes for every grade level. And because my network has two middle schools, they combined both middle schools.

So now you go from having a students like a hundred students, 110 students to having 200 students in one grade level on a zoom call. And they're only getting math science. And ELA is a combination of history. So they call it humanities. So it's a combination of both history and English and writing.

So that became the new norm. It was, I don't want to cuss cause this is an educational thing, but it was a shit show. And we were using, I believe Google classroom. And so I just remember trying to get a hundred plus kids, at least from my campus, just to log on to Google classroom. So at that time, students didn't even have emails.

[00:09:19]

They didn't have in most of my schools. So it was one of those Oh, my gosh, how do we get all of this done? And kids have had no orientation. His don't have devices. It was literally one of those okay, well, we're just going to make it work. Kids don't need to learn. And um, the ELA teacher decided to do, she was like the lead teacher for eighth grade and she decided to do.

A play. And so my role as a history teacher was then to not necessarily make everyday lessons, but try to figure out which specific parts of the lesson I could provide, like historical context. So I was teaching history. That's not in any of my standards. It was like way after my standards, but still relevant and enlightened that experience of reading the playoffs.

[00:10:04]

Loud being able to discuss and saying you know, why is this happening? It was actually raising in the sun, which is a personal favorite of mine. You know, Shane that I love love reading. So I was not upset or offended that I was an ELA teacher for that rest of that quarter and school year.

But it was definitely different. Kids did not. There was no T cap or the state testing kids did not necessarily get the education they would've gotten in person. And it was just different. It was just new for kids. And I think the saddest part was the students didn't show up. So we literally lost kids.

We didn't know where they were, how they were. I could not tell you which of my kids are in high school currently could not tell you where they've gone to high school. And I think kids just begin. Even the kids who were really passionate about their education became. Bogged down. I call it like the quarantine blues with just the increase of screen time for them screen time is like time to get on Snapchat and IgG with their friends and now it's school.

[00:11:11]

And so for them, it was just like I'm over it. And I'm worried. I'm scared. When I say things change, we as teachers and educators actually took a moment. We took a step before we went into watching the play and reading the play and doing that work. We just talked about the virus. What is it, how do you get accurate information?

It's Tik Tok, a good source. I know the world health organization just joined Tik TOK, but is that a good source for news? How do you prevent yourself from being the person that's currently refreshing to see the numbers and like, how do you manage that emotionally, socially? And how do we as educators help our kids process those feelings because they may not get the chance to do that because.

The people who have really been left out of this conversation because assumably the virus only affected adults. That's obviously a lie, kids got affected too. Having them be able to talk about it. You could tell kids wanting to talk about it. My daughter and her siblings who are also here in Memphis were calling me everyday just to ask questions.

[00:12:19]

Like I had to go find a St. Jude, like coloring book about coronavirus that kind of made it like a kid friendly thing. So I think that. Everything stopped. Even though we were trying to have classes every day. It's like your hands are tied because no matter what you think you would do until the governor makes a decision and therefore the like school board makes a decision.

You're just there. You're literally just waiting. Like even now we're supposed to go back like this January in person, but the school board was like, yeah, we're going to go back in January. And then the cases in Tennessee Rose in Tennessee became the worst place for coronavirus in the world. And then they're like, That's mostly East, but that's still Tennessee, so we're gonna not go back in person.

[00:13:04]

And so it's literally, you could go to bed thinking and expecting one thing and wake up and it's a complete, we different reality. A lot of it has just been like a guessing game and trying to figure out and go with the flow as much as possible. I'm frustrated as a teacher because I can't like really voice or vent that frustration because. Could they really have planned it better?


[00:13:29]

Yeah. I think you touched on an important point that. Politics like Shelby County can’t make a decision until the governor says something and we know Tennessee. Tennessee is not the most progressive place when they go further East from Memphis. I can see why that took so long to make stuff happen.

Yeah. So governor Lee is not Progressive in his thoughts about the virus and how we should deal with it. Masks are not mandatory in public. They're encouraged, but they're not mandatory. Even our Shelby County schools, superintendent received like death threats.

When we were like one of the first counties to say no, we're staying in virtual. Like we're not putting our kids in danger. The thing is like Shelby County schools terms like Memphis area, but we also have municipalities like Germantown and call your Ville who are in person. And they offer a virtual option, but kids go to school every day, like physically present.

And that's literally. 10 minutes down the street from me.


[00:14:30]

Wait how's that working? Is Shelby County schools in charge over all of them?

No. So because they're municipalities, they have their own government. They can make a different decision from Shelby County proper. So think of it as like Memphis area is Shelby County.

And then some part of the people who live in Shelby County fall under that Shelby County schools umbrella. However, your Bartletts your, Arlington's your, Germantown's your call? Your bills. Can like both school systems can make separate decisions. Cause they're their own. They have their own government, they have their own school board, but that's a very recent thing that's happened when Memphis city schools and Shelby County schools decided to merge.

[00:15:13]

Let's just say there might've been some. Racial tensions and or political and economic disparities that then led those municipalities to want to separate themselves from the herd and say, we're our own thing that makes more sense. Now Germantown said, we make our citizens pay their own taxes. Therefore we shouldn't make their kids go to school with your kids.

Right.


Well. Okay. If you don't know about Memphis, Memphis is a majority black city and Germantown is in that and neither is, I don't think Collierville. I'm not sure about the rest of those East Memphis.

None of them.


Shane T. Watson: Okay. There's the underlying current of what's happening in Shelby County.

I don’t want to sweep that under the rug because it did affect how the pandemic played out.

[00:16:04]

So a lot of people have asked, like, how come the kids who live in these more privileged areas? Get in-person education and nothing's really changed for them, but the students and educators who live in struggling communities also, don't have that option at all. Additionally, every Collierville kid, I can say this with a certain cause again, my goddaughter is a of kid and her siblings are as well. Every color of a kid already has a personal device assigned to them and has always had a personal device assigned to them. So it wasn't difficult. Literally all they had to do was like, Oh, you know the iPad you always get on in class every day when you have like free time or whatever, just take that home with you.

And now you're virtual versus. In my situation, we have a computer cart that we share for the entire grade level or two computer cards. So that's 60 computers, like a hundred and some kids. And that's assuming that every, those computers works, not all the time. So it's like that, like economic disparity also presented challenges where it wasn't necessarily about the schools or neighborhood or communities, willingness to provide quality education for the kids.

[00:17:21]

They just. They just didn't have the money. Like not everybody, not every, but every like kindergartener was walking in with an iPad, which is what you'll see in the Colliervilles and the Germantown.


So let's speak of tech. So your kids get these computers. How's the transition. How are they able to learn how to use computers if they weren't on computers all the time? How did that work for y’all?

I'm owning my own. I thought I was tech savvy until I had to teach a bunch of eighth graders. How to log into email or. How to open up a new browser and it's it's kind sad, but also it's empowering in a way, because it's like, Oh, like now that I'm really aware of this, I am not about to let my students suffer because of the way that, what they were born into.

[00:18:03]

I'm not going to let that be an excuse. So like it's empowering in that way, but it's also very disheartening because kids don't know how to use tech. Teachers don't know how to use tech. Family members don't know how to use tech. Therefore we're all learning. And we don't have the time to learn because we need to start school.

So school didn't start again. Usually school starts the beginning of August for us school. Didn't start again until September, because so students got out in may, beginning of may and school, didn't start again until the end of August, which is unheard of. So now the school year is extended for my whole month, but I had to do a lot of videos where I would literally screen record myself.

Telling kids how to do something as simple as logging into Schoology or log into all these apps. And that's after having had no time myself to actually figure out how to use these apps, because in order for them to be available for me to learn, and that use that month before school started, they had to pay for it.

[00:19:02]

It's do you waste all those resources, pain for your school to use Schoology for a month when there are no kids actually in school? Or do you wait to like maybe a day or a week before that also limits the amount of time I have as an educator to get familiar with those platforms. And there's also the issue of what I see.

On Schoology is obviously not what students are going to see. It's a completely different user interface. So I can't find a button I'm like, I honestly don't know what to tell you because the buttons I see are not the buttons or if I'm like on zoom and I want students to do a certain thing, I'm like, Oh, I don't even have the participation or the like, option to raise my hand.

So I couldn't tell you what. You need to do to raise your hand. So it's a lot of Googling. It's a lot of creating flyers and documents. And mom, I'm fortunate that my eighth grade team is like, we're all very solutions oriented. So we all, literally one person would be like, Oh, I made a little flyer about how to log in using your phone because a lot of students were using phones cause they didn't have computers or we have multiple siblings, families.

[00:20:04]

And we can maybe give a computer to each family, but that means you now have a kindergartner. Third grader, sixth grader and an eighth grader, trying to all use the same device. So we had okay, well, in the meantime, while we get more devices ordered and sent in which shipping is not really working in the Corona virus pandemic.

So whether you order it or not, you can order it in September and they won't come in again until December. So it's one of those Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So we actually just spent a lot of time making tutorials. I considered a YouTube career at one point, cause I was like, honestly, doing really well at this I should make a YouTube about how you can make a periodic lesson or, and I was like, yeah, it's too much.

It's too much. But there was a lot of work. It was a lot of hours put into just teaching kids how to do something. And then once you did that, you're like, Oh. I need to teach them actual like content, but you didn't have the time to say, let me do this first. And then do there was no, let me orient the kids and myself, and then we go to content.

It was happening in real time.


[00:21:10]

So what I'm hearing is that money, would you say now that your school is one-to-one with tech? Are you guys still having some tech issues?

I think we're mostly, one-to-one the reality of that though. Differs, because if a device breaks, then a kid is on their phone or some of the devices, like I said, some of the devices were not working, so we might've given it to students, but that's anticipated that they would have issues like your camera's not on or blah, blah, blah.

I think that efforts are still being made to fix that. But it's still pretty apparent. There is no, like in some school systems, even if the school can't provide a device, You can almost guarantee that the parent can purchase the device if necessary. And that like financial flexibility just doesn't exist in the community.

I work.

[00:22:04]

So let’s not forget that some of our parents, some of the grants, pilots, essential workers are just workers who lost jobs because of the pandemic. So that's also a strain.

Yeah. And I know that there was like, there's also the additional stress of meals. Like you could depend on schools for meals.

Now suddenly that's gone. And they try to fix that with like stipends, for grocery shopping or like you can come pick up meals, but even with the pickup, like one of the workers ended up having coronavirus. And so it was like, Oh, I just picked up a mail from someone who had the virus. That's not ideal.

I mean, I know we all order food and all that, but still not ideal. So something else that I noticed you get a glimpse into students' homes. That's almost uncomfortable because you see everything like there's no barrier between like school like you're literally in their living rooms, in their kitchens and their bedrooms.

[00:23:01]

And it becomes very apparent, like when there's, for instance, like a multifamily household and the kid can't even unmute just to answer a question because of just the noise, not a party or anything? Irresponsible just general like noises that come with living. As a teacher, I do live in a household where my like, siblings and my parents are still here, but like sometimes if my mom's on the phone, students will be like, I love your mom's accent.

And I'm like, Oh, you can hear her. That hold on. And I'll tell my mom, Hey, can you keep it down? But that's just like with four people, let alone multiple siblings, multiple adults all live in different lives and schedules. And you're just trying to be here on a computer and learn. So


It sounds like a lot. And have you witnessed or experienced students who are going through financial hardships and are there ways that the school or the counties less local government are doing to help them?

Definitely yes. To witness and that other than like government assistance and like stipends. There's really nothing that can be done because a lot of the schools like financial money and capabilities have had to be like spent on tech and tech isn't cheap.

[00:24:15]

It wasn't like, the Microsofts and the Apple said, Oh, it's a pandemic. Let's give them a massive discount. No, you bought those things. Those devices like you can tell if you like pay attention to those things, they made some money in this situation. Like the peer that acts like the subscriptions, like you notice like a subscription one from $10 a month to suddenly 50 or a hundred.

And you're like, what just happened? Or you're a free service until you have multiple users, Econ class, the demand. So then the supply and the price, so it's just like sad because you want to do more, but you can't really, so like even. I try and little ways. So if a kid has a birthday, I try to send them a pizza, but I don't like do a personal pizza.

[00:25:06]

I do one or two large pizzas that way it's like you can share with your siblings. Cause I'm actually fortunate right now to teach a lot of the siblings of kids. I had my first year of teaching or my second year of teaching. And so I'm teaching their younger siblings. And so I'm able to say, okay, I know what's going on and I know your family already.

And so while your parent is at work, Here's at least an assurance that you're going to eat. And it's a sensitive topic because you don't want to overstep as an educator and your assumptions and, or like actions, but you also want to take care of the kids. It's it's, it's more than just teaching them a lesson, just little things like that.

And I think that one of the things that has really affected them was like, if they live in those multi-family households and someone contracts like coronavirus, everyone's affected. Like I've seen students who have the virus, like in our, in their households with the mask on like sleepy or sick and still trying to learn.

[00:26:05]

And that's inspiring, but also very scary to say everyone in your household is currently sick and you're all anxious and worried and you still have to go to school because state laws, but. It's insane. We don't mandate it, but truancy and all that.


So there's been no change in Toronto laws or rules with the pandemic?

Honestly wouldn't know my, like I, I try not to get bottled down into politics because then I wouldn't be a teacher, but for my like teacher experience, attendance has become. More session with attendance that wasn't there for in-person with virtual learning. You have to literally like every hour check attendance, which as a teacher means, as I'm trying to set up my zoom, PowerPoint presentation and answer student questions and do the actual teaching.

[00:27:02]

I'm also like, okay, let me take attendance on this separate app. And it's just. It can be a lot. I had to buy a monitor, like I've never had needed an extra screen as much as I've been teaching or in grad school, but I had to purchase a monitor just to have the additional screen. So I use my cell phone, my laptop, my monitor, and my iPad, just to be able to do all of the things I need to do.


And your students, what did y'all do for access to wifi? Because we know that not all students have access.

That’s some positive shout out to Comcast Xfinity, maybe I don't know yet. Has created mobile hotspots all over the city that are free. And available to everyone. I don't know when that's going to end, but for most of the duration of the pandemic so far, it's, they've been available.

That also affects my paid for service. But what I got to get into that, like we have Xfinity and we were experiencing terrible service. So I couldn't even get on a zoom call and teach because they would literally just shut down in the middle of me teaching. Great. It's so fun to set everything up and being in the groove and it just goes like that.

[00:28:13]

But we do have my fight devices at the school did spend a lot of money purchasing my five devices, which are portable wifi devices that you can deliver to the students who demonstrate that extreme need, who just don't have it. There's no mobile hotspot, whatever. And as well as teachers too, and then you have a login and you're able to access and type into that.

So that's again so a lot of the money and resources has had to go into tech. There's no option. So there's that.


And how are the students learning all in tech? Are they, do you think about it at the same pace or things slower? Are you having to switch up what you're teaching them because of the format? Like how's that going for the students?

[00:28:56]

I think the issues and challenges I'm seeing are specific to my age group. I think that. The maturity and discipline required to learn virtually just hasn't been developed in middle schoolers. So I think that affects learning in the sense that not necessarily the students aren't, my kids are geniuses.

I'm just going to start there, but paying attention is harder. Zoom fatigue is a real thing. Like being able to focus and being able to mentally discipline yourself to say I need the kids need that compartmentalization of this is school. This is home because for them to go straight from lesson to video games, Is it's not healthy or like to go from like playing video games or not even like the little things that you would normally do, like taking a shower, like I'm a really big advocate of mental health and it just reminds me of What you would see from someone who's struggling with like depression, where they don't like do your normal routine, where they don't shower every day where they don't, those sorts of things.

[00:30:10]

If you take that away, especially for students, we're learning to develop routines and manage routines that affects their learning, that affects everything. Like it just affects your life and the quality of life. So what I've noticed is you'll be talking right to a student and they're there, but then sometimes you're like hello, are you with me?

And they're like, Not sleeping or anything. They're literally physically still staring at you, but they're not mentally like there, they're just like thinking about something else. So like we all daydream and we all drift, but when you're in person, you have that constant reminder of your surroundings.

I can't do that. I'm right here in class. Like I got to get back to it, but if your environment doesn't change, You can't do that as easily, I think would be the biggest effect. So I think like the biggest effect is not necessarily like students' learning and their pace, but just like the mental, social, emotional toll it takes.

[00:31:04]

Not having to, like when I interviewed, I survey my kids a lot now a lot more than I used to. And when I say Oh, how's it going? The answer is always Oh, we love history. And we like learning it, but I miss my friends. You're like, you don't care about history. You don't care about math.

You don't care about ELA. If you don't have also the opportunity to vent with your friends about whatever is going on. We adjusted the schedule. We did a lot of things. So content-wise kids are not getting the same amount of knowledge at all. We are changing the schedule. Just got an email yesterday. Yay.

We're changing the schedule so that can allow more consistency. But yeah. Currently, we have a schedule where students come to school on Monday and Wednesday or on Tuesday and Thursday, and then everybody comes on Fridays

In person or come to computer?

[00:31:53]

Come to the computer. Okay. So that means I'm teaching two lessons, maybe three every week, as opposed to when we were in-person I was teaching five lessons every week.

So you can just imagine what that does. Thankfully, I do teach history, so it's given me a chance to decolonize my curriculum. So rather than teaching a lot of the problematic standards that idolize white supremacy. I get to say, Oh, there's not enough time for that. Let's focus on this. So that's the plus side, but also kids are not getting as much content knowledge as they would have been.


And so kids are getting distracted. What are some tools or strategies you're using to keep them more engaged since that's an issue now?

I don't want to plug this app because they need to run me some coins if I'm going to be doing an ad for them, but there are apps like Pear Deck which is way more engaging.

[00:33:02]

So it's basically like interactive PowerPoint slides. So rather than just like sitting there and watching a PowerPoint presentation and maybe writing down on pencil paper, the kids are literally moving through the slides with me. And they have different prompts. They can answer in different parts of our presentation.

So it's literally like more interactive it's discussion based. And I've noticed kids respond really well to that. As far as engagement goes it's just like about. The performance art part of teaching. I people think teaching is you make a lesson and then like you tell kids what the lesson is and they maybe have a discussion and that's it.

Now you're onstage like, as a teacher, you're like is literally like action and you're literally like, okay, and then this. And so something that's been really like I'm very grateful for is my ability to tell stories. And I think that spans across all content areas. If you're a great storyteller, kids will be engaged.

And so you mixed the technology like Pear Deck with the actual, like active teaching. I think the word, the like fancy word that's been thrown around right now is edutainment. I'm rolling my eyes, but it's more about entertainment, art, right? That's coupled with the learning, And then just varying the way you assess students.

[00:34:18]

So not just saying, Oh, let's just, write it down, like making discussion a part of their assessment. So a lot of the time in person, they give you physical papers. This is my completed worksheet or, and that's the evidence that they were with you in class. Whereas with tech and with virtual learning, if they're dropping things in the chat or they are responding with a plus sign or like reactions, or if they are coming off mute and saying what they think that becomes more of like how the students engage.

And then the last, if I were given a tip, guess, to a teacher who's struggling, I would say the questions you ask, make them relevant. Rather than focus on the kids understand what I just taught. Think about real-world application. They're called like enduring questions or essential questions as questions that anybody, no matter how much they know about the content can answer.

[00:35:15]

So should the president be elected? That's a question that any kid can get to, or should we have equal representation or proportional representation? If we're going out for pizza, should everybody get a vote or should, the girls get a vote and the guys get to vote, or if you want to be not cisgendered, could you say Oh, um, does that, like, how do we determine this?

How do we make decisions when you ask kids that, and then start talking about history, kids are already hooked with you. But that's a lot of pressure. If you haven't been in there for five years and gotten to learn some of these things, that's a lot of pressure. If you're a first year teacher or a second year teacher or a 30th year teacher who doesn't know how to use tech, like you will literally at least for me feel inadequate or like inept when you're.

[00:36:10]

Starting this new journey. Cause it's not the same. Like you can't just take what you did in the classroom and make it like, like you can't do it. It's not the same, but yeah. So that's something that like I've always thought about is like, how do I make things relevant to kids and fun so that they continually want to be there no matter what's going on.

No matter the tech struggles, no matter the distractions, but still don't know yet working on it.


How many kids do you have in each class last semester in the fall semester?

So class sizes are supposed to be. Around 15, but some cohorts have 19 or 20 and then some cohorts have only eight because it's really based on we re I do want to commend my school for doing a good job of meeting kids and families where they are.

[00:37:00]

So some kids don't even start school till 12:00 PM. Which means as an educator, I'm in there to force sometimes because they get three consistent hours, three to four hours consistently, rather than the full eight hours before. Like you can say there's supposed to be this many kids, but who actually shows up differs.

We have, or we are in the works of like reshuffling students, so that it's all this kind of student, all this kind of student, and it's just, it's going to be a lot. But I think the max that we're trying to shoot for is like 20 to 25 kids, which I don't know. You probably have experience with this. I don't know if you've held any zoom meetings when you were in charge of I don't know, multiple participants, but.

For me five is my max of what I figure I'm being efficient because there's there's so much you will miss you're still trying to teach. You gotta literally monitor. That's why you need multiple screens, all of the kids and make sure you're checking the chat for questions, but also looking at the work they're actually doing.

[00:38:02]

And it's just Five is a lot for me. 10 is manageable. 15 is okay, because then it's not boring and it's not the same kids over and over 20. I don't know what that's going to be like, but I guess I'll find out.


You just made me have an epiphany of– Yeah. Well, I did have to, I didn't manage this zoom room for work, but I was live tweeting it, but then I didn't realize I was made a host so people could see that I was a host. So the questions came to me while I'm trying to listen to somebody talk and take notes.

And this person keeps messaging me I don't have your answer. Please send this to this person. So now I'm being the conduit to get to this person. And then respond back to that person, what they said, what sounded live tweet. I never thought about that. And this way, like if you were a teacher in your, and this is only for speakers, there's not 29 kids or 20 kids, I'm trying to learn.

[00:38:59]

How are you able to take notes? Is there an assistant teacher who's like making sure things are happening? Like how do you, and I asked this question, but now I have more of a grounding in the slightly of the experience. How are you managing to. Pay attention to the kids are all teaching at the same time and somewhat of being able to meet their needs?

Great question. I'll let you know when I got that answer, I'm just kidding. It's literally something as simple as sometimes having to get on the zoom call with my phone. And have to have me literally split myself into I'm still the same person, but let it just to make me feel better.

Cause then it's not as overwhelming because it's Oh Mr. Miller number two can answer that question. All jokes aside. No, that actually does happen. I'm being so serious. Something that's helped me is like being able to do breakout rooms. At times when it gets to be too much being able to say, okay, I'll split the class in two or split into these groups in some of the groups I'll have student leaders who cause again, geniuses, some of the kids can actually teach my class if they want it too.

[00:40:12]

That's just– They’re also like nerds like me. So it works. So I'll put those kids like in the same group of kids who might need more help. And then I'll literally hop from room to room. And let them do a lot of like independent work and learning because I strongly believe in that, but what's helped again, is that Pear Deck app, they need to run me some coins. Pear Deck has really helped because I can literally see every kid's like response in one place. And. Be able to like what we call, show, call highlight that response and say, Oh, let's see what they did here. This is the answer we're looking for. What can we do to make it better? Or this is completely wrong?

Or what do you think about this? Is it wrong? Is it right? Being able to do that with Pear Deck has been phenomenal. But that comes at a cost. We have to purchase a subscription. Like I literally sent an email and was like, so are y'all gonna do this? Or do I need to make plans to do this for myself or what?

[00:41:15]

And they're like, we'll look into it. Thankfully we have the money to get it, which I think means Sucky Christmas gifts, but Hey, we got pier deck, so it's good. It's great. I don't think, I don't think that we are doing a good enough job. I just that's me being like extremely critical and wanting to be a perfectionist.

And I know that it's not like I have to give myself grace and be proud of myself for at least trying and continuing to come back every day. But it's not easy to do. Cause it's you're not just, it's not just about teaching the lesson. And you have to also be constantly aware of students' emotional like wellbeing.

[00:41:58]

You have to be constantly aware of like phone messages. From coming in about whatever, like would, it's an email, like you get email from students, you'll get phone messages from students. You'll get full messages from the principal. You get four messages from the Dean of students like his parents.

And it's just all happening constantly. And when you're on break and you're like, Oh, this is a time for me to refuel. You got a grades and papers or plan the next lesson. So it's been way more demanding, I think, than in-person because at least with in-person I know if I print one set of materials and make copies of it.

That's what we're using for the rest of the day. I don't have to worry about going to make a copy. Whereas with virtual, you have to reset the all over again, the same pier that can't be used. Cause you know, you have to do for each cohort. We actually have more classes than we normally do because we used to have classes of 30, 35.

[00:42:55]

Now we have, like I said, 15 to 20, so we're having to do something like I teach the same lesson. I teach the same lesson eight times in a week, like 55 minutes, times eight Mondays split across Monday and Tuesday. And then Wednesday and Thursday, I do the same thing for different lessons. And it's just, it becomes mundane.

I struggle with engagement because by the time I've said it like the 50th time, I'm like still doing the same conversation and it's I'm supposed to be like, cause I bring the energy and the kids match me, but. That's really hard to do whoever you are. If you've done it, like even college professors don't have to do that.

That's a lot of sections of one class of one topic of the same. Like I'm talking to the exact same things.

What has been a highlight of your semester?

The kids it's always the kids for me, I'm really sad because these kids are like, I don't know. I think, Oh, educators would understand this. There's some kids that you just like connect with.

[00:43:57]

Not that you can't make connections with all students and you shouldn't, but they're just some kids that it happens naturally. Like they like, like the same music as you, or they're interested in the same kind of topics or they have the same sort of like similar personalities or they're like super inquisitive.

And this is like the first time in my five years that I've vibed this much with kids, but I don't know if it's like real, like when you're dating, you're like, I don't know if this is real, because this is like on a virtual app. I don't know your real personality until I meet you. That's how I feel with these kids.

But I'm like, even if I met them in person, I just feel like it would be an amazing learning experience. That's, that's been robbed of us, but I definitely have to say the kids, like the kids, bring their personality to the chat much more than I think they would have in person. Cause kids are shy, but in chat, like you'll see kids be like, when somebody says something really cool or interesting about like protestors and you're just like, I love it.

[00:44:53]

This is amazing. This is authentic. This is great. So that's been really cool. Just the discussions and like the content itself, not being so rigid and tie to you know, expectations of, you have to teach the kids about every single president and everything that they did. And it's no, you don't actually have to do that now.

There's no like pressure of state testing and all that. That's been a highlight. That's been a joy of not having to have Oh, you have to pass this stupid test there. Isn't really about learning and more about your ability to memorize historical facts. So if you have a terrible memory, you're going to fail no matter what, like it's less of that and more about how do I, as an educator, get to equip and empower my students to be effective leaders now and in the future.

So how do we compare the black lives matter protesters to. The colonial protesters during the Boston tea party, having kids be like, yeah, they should have protested King. George was a tyrant, blah, blah, blah. And then when we came to black lives matter, you could hear them like believing that the cause was justified, but also being like.

[00:46:03]

They destroy properties and some of those protestors weren't even black and just being able to go in history and then apply that to current date and actually have the time to talk about it and not have the kids be like, we gotta go to math or like just being able to do that has been really fun for me this year.

And, getting my tech skills up because apparently they weren't where I thought they would be. So I'm thinking of it, no matter how frustrating it is, it's a learning opportunity. I'm more marketable now. You know, if you're looking at hire, I'm just kidding. Yeah, I got more skills so I can hopefully make some money and be able to pay my bills and student loans.


Everybody should listen to this and CashApp Chidimma student loan money.

Actually, it's cash tag, dollar sign Chronicles of Chi– C H I. Yeah.

[00:46:59]

Look we’ll flash that on the screen. And speaking of the protest and black lives matters and police brutality, social justice. And you had the conversations with students. How did that come up? Do you try to have these conversations with your coworkers, with your managers? Like how did that happen?

Okay. So at the height of it, we were out of school, it was break, but our CEO at least had the, I want to say foresight as much as I don't know, she was able to say, let's have a community like town hall with the staff and talk about this and give people the space to process and grieve and whatever else they needed.

That was cool. I think that students were hungry and ready to talk about it, because again, when you're 12, 13, 14 adults don't really think that you have much to say or. Really care what you have to say. At least that was my experience growing up. So they were already, they wanted to talk about it and being a history teacher, I'm fortunate to be in like a content area where it naturally merges and students are like, okay, I want to talk about what's going on.

[00:48:17]

And did you see the Soho Karen? Or did you like, they want to talk about that stuff? And so I get. The like privilege and honor of trying to figure out how to incorporate that into the classroom. And that's it's been fun. As far as like helping shape their minds and help them deal with the trauma that comes from continuously.

Being messaged that your life doesn't matter. Something we've done. And we made a commitment is like being a trauma sensitive school. And that's something that's new with this pandemic because it gave us time to think. And with the black lives matter movement. We are a trauma sensitive school now, which means we literally, as educators get training so that we can better help and respond to rather than add to the traumas our students face.

[00:49:11]

Because I think that as educators, because we're also managers of a classroom, we tend to sometimes put managing the classroom above the social, emotional wellbeing of students. And it's not something that like it's done with any malice, but that's, it's. Like you do it. Like whether, if you're an effective manager, you're going to silence people because a manager will say something like, Oh, we don't have the time for everybody to speak.

[00:49:36]

So only two people can share it because we have, we need to move on. Whereas you can say, you know what, let's create the opportunity and space. If anybody wants to speak, they can, let's create an opportunity where if people don't aren't vocal and are more introverted and want to just write out what they feel, whether for themselves, or share it with people that's an option.

So that's something we do. We check in with students. For at least 30 minutes every day. I have a wonderful homeroom and we literally just check in and it's not about learning or an objective. It's just, how are you, what's going on? What do you want to talk about? What do you need to uplift your spirit?

[00:50:13]

And we also like it's educated in the sense that we practice coping skills with them. So like we might do. Listen to music. So we have like days of the week, like tunes Thursday or fun Friday where we just have fun and play games online, or we have Motivation Monday where we like learn from the experience or an inspired by other people.

So we might like, or worthy Wednesday where we dive into different people. Um, ISA Ray was one of my favorite worthy Wednesdays, but we actually got to figure out, learn more about her life. And the kids were like, Oh, I never really thought about her. Or we had Frankie Dakin who was an alderman here in the area we learned about him on a Wednesday.

And then he's also a Rhodes alum. And that Friday, he. Came to talk to the kids about what it's like to be like in elected office, in public office. And they were just like, it was amazing. Like I've had my brother, who's a nurse, come talk to them about nursing. And because it's virtual, we have way more options.

[00:51:12]

Cause like physically come into a school building and talking to kids as much as you want to do it. Timing and scheduling is a challenge, but being able to do that is just something that like, has made everything better. And just being able to check in with kids and do social, emotional learning.

That's just, that's been good. And I think that's like a positive result of the black lives matter movement, a positive result of the pandemic. What are you doing? Therapy more therapy before the pandemic I'd already budgeted being able to provide therapy for as long as I need it. Just because again, mental health is important.

If you are a teacher, you don't think you need therapy, do it anyway, in a way most insurance We'll give you at least six free sessions, whether it's all six with the same person or to shop around and find them prison, use it. It's free. It's there. If you don't use it, it literally goes to waste. Yeah, that's definitely been something I've been doing.

[00:52:14]

And then I've also just tried really hard to focus on. What I like about the profession, because it's really easy. There's some stuff we haven't gotten to yet, but like being forced to be evaluated while you're trying to figure out virtual learning is in my opinion is disrespectful. And right now I know that a lot of teachers, myself included are feeling as if their voice has been taken away or.

Because a lot of the decisions aren't like, we're not making it like it's our classroom, but we're just expected to enact a policy rather than actually or like implement a policy rather than actually form the policy. So the decisions are being made and it's like the people making the decisions.

[00:53:07]

Aren't the ones that are actually going to have to implement the decisions. So as a human being and as an educator, you feel. As if your voice is being silenced or isn't being considered. So you have to do a lot on your own end just to affirm yourself distance. Like I, when I had to do self evaluations, normally I'm very critical about myself and I'm always like, how can better?

But I had to force myself almost to be like, what did you do that was boss? What have you done? There's just unheard of. And Shown your resilience throughout this pandemic and throughout virtual learning. And that's hard to do. And so I encourage educators. Like I actually started following a lot of educator empowerment accounts on IG, so that while you're scrolling through all the normal muck of social media and all the other problematic things you know, the influencers are the perfect eye shadow and makeup and skin, you can also be like, Oh, Here's a teacher who's struggling and here's an affirmation day used or, you know what, let me get, literally get on an IG live with a bunch of educators for self care Sunday and force myself to take at least one to two hours where I just online and bed and, or drink some wine or do whatever I need to do to literally take that time and take that break.

[00:54:28]

Something else that's been like. A blessing in disguise with this pandemic and with virtual learning has been my planning periods. And I don't mind saying this on camera, find me if you will. I don't do work on my planning periods anymore just because they are just like the one hour break I get in the day.

Most of my planning periods is actually spent coaching other teachers or meetings or whatever. So the ones that I have that are just mine and there's nothing like no standing meeting. I don't work. I could work in grade and all that, but I've had to learn and that's a healthy boundary that I need to set.

[00:55:05]

If I'm on a computer from 9:00 AM, sometimes eight, sometimes 8:30 AM all the way until three or 4:00 PM. That hour is going to be spent eating food. When we're in person lunch for me was Michael barely microwaving my food and standing in the cafeteria and monitoring a hundred and something eighth graders while they talked or whatever, and also trying to eat at the same time that was lunch.

And it was like 20 minutes. Now, lunch for me is getting off the computer, turn on some music. Getting some uh, air fire ingredients, pop in the air, fire in cooking some salmon and enjoying every single bite instead of rushing. Those are the things that I've had to learn how to incorporate.

[00:55:51]

And so it's different for every teacher. You might feel a lot of stress if you don't get to use the hour to do work to each his or her own their own, I personally have just realize that that's a healthy boundary that I need to set for myself. I've also started trying the bedtime app where I literally.

Do not disturb everything even on my computer while I'm teaching, I have do not disturb on so that I'm not getting emails that are jarring or have something that's going to make me mad. Then I take it out and look at none of that is happening because there's a difference between an email coming in.

[00:56:26]

And you're like, I'll look at that when I have the time to versus like an administrator, literally walking into your classroom in the middle of your teaching. And then partying, whatever BS they want to impart.

Okay, good. Do all those things for yourself. So you continue to help these students get through this ridiculous time and help yourself get through this time. And how has COVID impacted your family?

Man. We about to get personal. I have three family members that are in healthcare. My mom is currently not working because she is immunocompromised. Probably not a good idea. So risk that. I actually had a sister and a brother who were both healthcare workers who have both had COVID and thankfully have survived and not had major symptoms for me.

[00:57:15]

It's just really been about being committed to social distancing. Which is really hard because I'm an extrovert. I'm not like out here in these streets trying to party. Like I was when I was 25, but I do enjoy something about being able to just go out to a bar, not even drink, just not even talk to anybody, but just being around people and noise is like soothing for me.

And so that being taken away. It's just or even like with teaching the act of going to work and interacting with coworkers and be like, how's your baby. Let me see pictures and all of that. You can do that now, but by the time I've taught from nine to whatever on camera, I don't even want to talk to my friends.

[00:57:57]

So for me, it's just been like, family-wise like that commitment to social distancing and to like staying at home. For the safety of my family. I've had family members have to relocate because of COVID and just come back home or whatever it is, all of that affects dynamics in like your ability to interact with each other.

All the means we see about being stuck in the same house year in and year out, like patients running out or just like being frustrated or not being able to see certain people and all of that, I think. Is something that's stuck in impact. It's like everybody has felt in some way or another. So I don't think that's like unique to my family, but.

It has been difficult, especially with having family members who are healthcare workers, just like constantly worrying every single day. Like hope they're okay. Literally sending texts like a huge lie. And it's you normally check in with siblings and things like that, but now it's like more about, are you literally alive?

[00:58:59]

And unlike, unfortunately, I actually just lost my doctor, my primary care physician who's Nigerian. And like I babysat his kids, everything. He actually just passed due to COVID. So it's actually very close to home on every level. I just had a student on Christmas day lose his grandmother, who was his primary caretaker.

And it's not a current student of mine, but like a former student of mine, he reached out to let me know because like I developed a relationship five years ago with his family and it's just been tough. It's been rough. It's not the best. If I would say anything about that, it would just be like, I understand more than anyone.

I'm not gonna say more than you, but like I completely empathize with wanting to respond. Like a friend texting is Oh, there's going to be this like party here, or Atlanta's still open because the complainant I get it. I do. But it's also selfish to make that decision to then in the middle of a pandemic goal, potentially pass COVID around.

[00:59:58]

So that my sister or my brother who was just doing her job, would they get sick? Because they're having to treat you because you're sick or somebody you were affected infected or somebody like it's just selfish and I've lost faith in humanity, to be honest. Cause I just thought, I don't think people are going to listen.

Like I think everyone's Oh, when it gets close to home, you'll listen. I know people who have been sick themselves in a still like– let's party life as usual. And it was just sad that we as human beings care more about like selfish interests than we do about everybody else being able to live their lives.

[01:00:39]

Wow. A grandmother or a guardian of a student. Wow. Your family physician, which that is that's cause you've been in Memphis your entire life. Most of your life, and I'm asking your doctor for a lot of your life. That's. That's close. That's really close. Yeah. Just lot as well. And thinking of your student who lost the grandmother and it also makes me think of what, like the parent involvement of students this year, like how has that been for you as a teacher to get that buy-in from parents or is it more difficult?Is it more, are they more involved this year? Like, how's that been for you?

[01:01:12]

I'm not going to lie. I think when it comes to independent assignments, that's what we've seen the least parent. Buy-in not because they don't want to be bought in. Because there's literally a barrier like logging in and seeing your kids grades requires the student, the parent to log in to the student's computer, which again, we all know what it was like trying to get students to log in.

So if you've ever had anyone older than 40, 45 and tried to teach them. Maybe even 30 I'm throwing my I'm gonna throw my group in there too, and tried to teach them how to do some kind of fancy new feature on an app. J Cole tweeted. How do I write a thread? Let this all I'm going to say on that topic.

If I'm an intelligent man, like Jermaine, Lamar Cole needs help doing a 200 thread, you can only imagine what it's like for adults. One to have to admit that they need help. That's the first step and to then seek out that help and not feel, less than when they're like struggling to figure it out.

[01:02:16]

So that's just been hard. Parents are always bought in because parents like contrary to, what statistics we like to tell you, parents care. It's just so much harder when there's that like technological, like learning barrier as well as demands physically of having to go to work and then come back and now get on a computer to help your kids, or get an email from the teacher saying your kid is missing these assignments.

And all you can literally do is say, kid, have you done these assignments? And I'm actually speaking from the perspective of not a parent, but like someone who is a godparent and has stepped in sometimes to help with my gob kids. Cause their mom. Is now having to like help for kids at the same time in real time navigate school, like she has a set of twins and then one older, young, and it's all elementary.

[01:03:04]

So that's difficult. So I can't imagine in she's, you rather educated, they financially are secure and stable. So I can't imagine it's like helping one kid with homework every night versus having all your kids in real time. And sometimes the parents aren't there because they're working. So sometimes it's an auntie or grandma who's stepping in.

Sometimes it's a neighbor. Who's okay, well you're going to work. So I'll just watch the kids while you guys are all at work. It's so much, it's so complex. It's so dynamic. And I think that it's unfair to say it's like parents aren't bought in as much as it's more difficult for them to be involved in the way they would want to be.

And yeah, it's more work on the teacher too, because there is nothing that we have so far to my knowledge, that allows you to send individual personalized email updating about student progress. That doesn't require you as a teacher to literally go through and do one kid at a time for a hundred plus kids.

[01:04:10]

Like it doesn't exist.

So there's no automation of I can say I can check Lamar and Lamar's parent, and this just seems like a generic, this is Lamar's grade right now. You don't have that system?

No, you, I have to figure out what his grade is. And then I can do the sending out to the parents. But as far as I, there's still a lot of work on my end, like manual work on my end to like literally figure out what his grade is or run a report for him.

And like it's a lot. Yeah, that's a thing. I, I think so speaking about that, cause I know I said like parents we're talking about parents. I honestly do think the tech industry isn't at least the stuff that's available, isn't where it needs to be. I don't think tech and education have a working relationship.

[01:05:03]

The fact that like Pear Deck and Pear Deck is still in development phases. Uh, Google classroom is still there. A lot of the online, like people call them like, Oh, we're already technological all of that stuff. Isn't made to work with any other program, like they're operating independently, right?

There is no sinking across platforms. And that creates so many issues. So like for instance, Schoology is the one we use for like student assignments. There is no way for me as a teacher to upload a PDF. That students can now annotate and scribe on Schoology. So what that means is I have to download the PDF, convert each page to an image, resize the image list, small enough, then upload the image.

And even then students can't like type texts, anything they have to literally just underline the image and that's it like, so how am I, how are kids opposed to like engage in something as critical as like reading and annotating and taking notes on what you're reading? There's no working way that, that you can do that.

[01:06:12]

Even as adults, I would have to get an iPad, not a Macbook. And I would have to purchase some sort of a pin or stylus to do it. So now imagine doing that with students who all have Chromebooks, it's a lot, it's a lot.


It is a lot. And you think about parent involvement and like y'all trying to get these reports of students and I should students all day to make sure students are still coming to class. When there's a student that's been absent or you've noticed something's going on at home, do you have to take that up? Do you take that to administrator to just go up a social worker that handles that?

Yeah. So it's a mix of everybody. Obviously teachers have a direct line or more direct line, I should say.

[01:07:06]

So we actually do a that's why attendance has become a thing now. So we do a lot of the recording part of it. I'm like, Oh, I've noticed this kid hasn't been here for a few days or so we do that. We have an attendance team does also consistently making calls and checking in about that. Cause it could be a number of things could be internet.

It could be power. It could be anything, really somebody sick, like he broke the computer or whatever it is. They check in on that end. And then as a teacher, like I do, and anybody who works at our school and now even students and parents can make referrals to social workers. So we are blessed to be a school that has two social or two social workers and two social work interns, which is that's four people just focused on students and staff like social, emotional wellbeing being that's phenomenal.

[01:07:56]

That's unheard of. So that's something cool. But I do have, I do have the option of referring students and saying Oh, I think the student would need more time. And because we've been checking in, I was like I said, being in a trauma-sensitive school, we check in at least 30 minutes every day with the kids.

We're also able to catch things. They're like, literally, like we ask, how are you, like on a scale of one to 10, or which emoji best represents you or doing that has helped tremendously to at least say, okay, this student is struggling with grief. The student is struggling and being able to then say, okay, social workers, how can we help?

Or if you are emotionally full and you have the capability to say, how can I help? That's also an option. So it's, again, you got to know yourself, get to know your limits, got to know your boundaries and then say, okay, how can I help or. How can they help? Admin is part of the attendance team. So that's how they play a role.

And they do a lot of phone calls and checking in with parents directly. Like we don't see your student, we're just concerned. Is there anywhere we can help? So like we, we're making efforts. It's just different to see a kid physically crying than for them to just sit there and not it almost like you have to have that trust or the kid has to be comfortable enough to tell you that they never speak up.

[01:09:14]

You will never know. And that's happened a few times too, so that's pretty rough as well. Whereas in person, they can't, you can't hide it. If a teacher gives you a hug and you're like emotionally fragile, nine times out of 10, it happens to me. You're like start tearing up. It'd be like, Ooh. And you're like, what's going on?

Versus they're just sitting at a Zoom computer and God forbid they don't have the camera on. So you don't really see them. You have no idea. You’re like blind.


And when you have issues with students or like you said, you just pass along information that you've put together. How are teachers staying connected and creating a virtual teacher's lounge?

[01:09:56]

So we hate zoom. We hate it because when you do something for work, it's no longer fun. Like I remember a point where the idea of a group FaceTime with my friends or like a zoom with my friends was like, I don't know it was my jam.

I was into it. And now I'm just like, please don't call me or text me. I'm tired of phones. I'm tired. But I think that like that, like shared like camaraderie that comes from going through literal battle together is like pretty great. Shout out to my eighth grade team. They're literally texting me right now.

We have a group chat, thankfully we're all iPhone users. So we like use that as a space to just like. Talk to each other and say, Hey, this is what I'm doing. Or did you have this issue with this cohort today? Is it me or is it off like just the ability to do that has been great or, Hey, I'm using PureTech and I am so lucky.

I can't say this enough. I know schools operate where every teacher is almost like their own person and they don't care. And this doesn't help because you literally are your own person in your own classroom. You can't even hear what the lesson is like in person. I could tell you what they're doing in math, because the four flashes are right next to each other.

[01:11:13]

So you can sometimes hear what's going on or you can hear the kids now. It's, it's just this it's just a computer and me and the kids. We are still able to connect with each other and say Oh, this is what I'm doing. Or, Hey, we're taking a quiz and history class, are you guys giving a quiz or I'm planning on giving a quiz?

So we don't have the kids show up to school one day and have 10 quizzes. Like we still do that. And I'm grateful for that because that's one comes from having worked together last year. Like the majority of the team came back and also just being friends like I guess I can say her name. Sarah Kim, who went to Rose is one of the teachers on my team.

And the other teachers are, people are like, generally just have built a connection with. So that's been fun. As far as school efforts, we have staff meetings, but it's not the same. We do still have professional development and I would like to see not to say it doesn't exist at all, but I would like to see more of the teacher's lounge vibe and effect.

[01:12:18]

Cause it's not as prevalent as it used to be right now in professional development. Because even when you have a PD or like a learning objective for the teachers, you have the 10 or 15 minutes before it starts, where everybody's checking in that's not a thing now because everybody's let's just get in this meeting and get out.

It's just like very iffy. There's no shared experiences or best practices really. But I, as a department chair, I do get the opportunity to do that. One-on-one with the teachers in my department. So that's cool. But as far as, I don't know, I think as a more experienced teacher, I'm in a limbo.

[01:12:58]

First year teachers get that like the teacher's lounge field. Cause everybody's like trying to help them, but I'm just like, they're like, Oh, we trust that, you know what you're doing? And I'm like, but I'm literally still by myself doing, figuring out virtual learning, but that's cool. I'm glad you have faded me, but that doesn't mean I don't need camaraderie.

That's all. That's. That's great. And I will mention clubhouse There is literally a teacher's lounge on clubhouse, but it's not what I thought it was changes take over and make one. But I think that, like I said, I G and like being able or willing to step outside of what I consider my actual teacher's lounge, like in person here at my school, and trying to think more of an international, like global teacher's lounge and trying to find.

Those few educators, not just like to network, literally in connect with educators that outside of my school community are on the same wavelength as me, because not everybody who works at your school missions and visions align with your mission divisions. Despite the fact that your school might have a mission and vision, I'll say it again.

[01:14:08]

You guys might have mentioned a vision and we all do our best to fit it, but you might have individual values and personal values that. Don't align with personal values of people at your school. So trying to find and build a space for that would be great. So thanks for starting that off Shane.


Yeah. So I'm glad you're ready to shoot the promo for The Teachers’ Lounge by Shane/by Lunch Tray but we're going to get there. Earlier you said there's some things we hadn't discussed. So there's some things you still wants to discuss in this interview?

I think we ended up talking about it. It has to do a little bit with just like feeling somehow disempowered as a teacher and feeling like your voice is being silenced and not heard. And I think I briefly mentioned like the expectation to have evaluations during this time and what it's like, I understand how you're giving me feedback when you were never taught virtually, but I, and I hope that's all I'm gonna say on that.


[01:15:00]

And is there anything else you'd like to add before we conclude this interview?

My fellow teachers, we can do this. It may not seem like it at times, but we are more than capable. We already have the skillsets. We just need to figure out how to use them and utilize them effectively and take care of yourself.

Please go to therapy. If you can't afford it, holler at me. I'll pay for at least one session. That's how serious I am. Maybe only five people though. Yeah, I can't afford that. That's it. So the


First five people who are educated as a hit up cinema us, you will cover one session for you at a therapist of her discretion/price point.

There we go.


And if people want to follow you, how can they do that?

I am @ChroniclesofChi on all social media for my personal stuff. But if you want to follow my teacher educator profile, I only have an IG. I refuse to do anything else. That's because that's where my kids are. It's engaged at @EngagewithMsEmelue

[01:16:00]

And that is E M E L U E

Yes. So at engage with Ms. Emelue but yeah ChroniclesofChi and then I am a writer and I love writing. And if you ever want to have intellectual discussion– Shane can tell you, I'm the person to have those conversations that have nothing to do what you're supposed to be doing. Hours in Buckman!


Which is how we became friends because I wasn’t doing no homework freshman year and we were sitting there talking about things that weren't at school related.

Hey, that was, that was school-related. That was learning. We were learning.

It was social building networking and getting to know your fellow.

Naw. We were learning!

I was rapping Chris Brown and Busta Rhymes

Or listening to Chiddy Bang, or go going on the like 50,000 Taco Bell runs for no reason other than we just wanted to leave or McDonald's. Yeah.

And Wendy's Oh my God, that lady at Wendy's. What was her? Remember? We’d just go to Wendy's you, me, and it used to be Reid for some random reason and that lady. Had the biggest attitude.

[01:17:03]

You could not ask for anything without– granted I'm an adult now, so you don't have to be happy to work your job. That's fine. But when I tell you this woman had the worst attitude I've ever and we went back all the time because Wendy's had the 99 cent deals.

There was a time where we tried to go on foot. I don't know if you were involved with that one where we pulled up to the drive through. So she probably was just sick and tired of college kids cause we were doing the most.

And Memphis surprisingly has a lot of colleges. And I think that's probably one of very few Wendy's and Memphis, especially in that area.

Oh no, there are a lot. Well that area. Yeah, but there's a lot now where I live, there’s a Wendy's everywhere.

Well Chidimma is has been good. I want to say thank you for sitting down to do this interview, like for being a friend. As a teacher, you are enough, you are doing great. You will make it through the end of this semester and the beginning of next. After that I can’t guarantee nothing. Cause I couldn't imagine doing this for a whole year, so yeah, I'm just not help.

[01:18:04]

I wish the best for you for your future. Figuring out what you want to do next, if it isn't teaching or if it's somewhere in education in a different, I dunno. But again, as I always say, teachers are superheroes, y'all do so much for the students. Go above and beyond. And y'all are just great without y’all we wouldn't have the leaders of today, as you said, or the leaders of tomorrow, because teachers are teaching the kids and without teachers, kids would just be dumb. I said whatever. So thank you again. Thank you for this interview. Good luck. Cause you start school soon, tomorrow. I just don't know how

Thank you for having me. Thank you for doing this. I don't know if I've ever told you this enough, but you were phenomenal and I am honored and privileged to know you and have you as a friend. And don't forget me, when you become Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae level, you remember the little the people who were there shooting in the gym, as you said,

[01:19:05]

You know how Issa took her friends on a vacation to some islands. Like I'm looking for that. I'm not, I'll pay for some of it, but like I

I have my list of people who will be coming, if I, if I– when I make it

You better affirm yourself.

Thank you again. And I hope you have a great day.

Thank you for having me. You as well.

Shane T. Watson: If you want to learn more about Chidimma, Project Teachers' Lounge, or check out some exclusive content, head over to LunchTrayMedia.com/ProjectTeachersLounge.

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